Lobio, or beans, are prepared in hundreds of ways in Georgia and feature at almost every meal. They are at their best when cooked over a wood fire like Izo’s, but they also benefit from being baked or simmered gently in traditional Georgian clay pots. Although the Georgians favour dark, kidney-shaped beans, I find it’s more effective to use thin-skinned beans whose skins almost dissolve when cooked. So don’t be afraid to use Borlotti or other premium beans as they’ll make the texture and flavour better. This recipe adds vibrant fresh herbs to the mix: half are added during cooking and the rest at the end. See for a spicier version that also includes walnuts. The Georgians always serve fermented or pickled vegetables or flowers when they serve lobio, as a counterpoint.
Soak the beans overnight in good clean water (filtered, if possible). Drain, rinse well and turn the beans into a large saucepan. Cover them with two fingers of water and bring to the boil. After about 15 minutes, when the beans start producing foam, pour the beans and water into a colander and rinse the beans again. Cover them with fresh water and boil for 1 hour, skimming off any foam that appears.
Add the onions, marigold petals and half of the garlic and chopped coriander / cilantro to the beans. Stir in the dried summer savory or thyme, salt and chilli. Continue cooking until the beans are soft – anything from 30 to 60 minutes or more. If the water gets low, add more to keep the beans covered by about two fingers of water.
When the beans are soft and beginning to fall apart, taste them for salt and chilli, adding more if necessary (the chillies should only add a subtle hint of heat). Stir in the remaining herbs and garlic and cook gently for 10 minutes more. Check for seasoning again before serving.
© 2017 All rights reserved. Published by Pallas Athene.